The Glenrothes Select Reserve

Life’s twists and turns cannot keep a whisky blogger down. I am finally back with my next review, The Glenrothes Select Reserve. This was launched in 2005 and was the first official bottling that did not have a vintage.

The Glenrothes_Selected Reserve_NAS_The Smoky DramWhisky: The Glenrothes select Reserve, 43% ABV

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: NAS

For a very good long time the distinctive difference between The Glenrothes and other whisky brands was that they did not sport a regular range of ‘core’ whiskies. Instead they would release vintage whiskies instead (I still would love to try the one from my birth year – 1975).

That changed in 2005 when they launched their first official bottling not to carry a vintage – the Select reserve. Supposedly a blend of 11 different vintages with a 50/50 split between bourbon and European Olorosso sherry casks for the maturing of the whisky.

Colour: Bright old gold with nice long, slow and thick legs.

Nose: Sweet, burnt caramel and citrus (to me a mix of glazed orange wedges, marmalade and citrus fruit polish). There is also a slight sweet smokiness and vegetal notes with hints of wood spiciness and baked vanilla dessert sweetness. Over all quite clean and fruity.

Palate: Spicy yet floral. The spiciness is sweet and leaves a warm spice tingle on tip of one’s tongue. The citrus notes and wood spices follow from the nose quite nicely. There is also an interesting wet woodiness around. Time turns the spices from sweet to hot.

Finish: Fairly long with a wood spice tingle to warm ‘heart’ at the end

Overall: A great whisky that is one that could easily be used to show a non-whisky drinker what whisky can be like without completely over powering their senses. Once can also see why this is a popular whisky used in blends.

My Score: 81

Inchgower 31yo 1974 (Royal Mile Whiskies)

A decade jump in age for my next review, the lovely 31yo Inchgower (distilled in 1974) from Independent Bottler Royal Mile Whiskies. We had bottle #104 of 179 bottles produced from cask number 10416. Thanks to @thedramdog for bringing this bottle to our tasting.

Inchgower_RoyalMileWhiskies_31yo_The Smoky DramWhisky: Inchgower 31yo 1974, 47.2% ABV (Royal Mile Whiskies, Cask #10416, 179 Bottles)

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 31 years


The Inchgower distillery was founded as ‘The Great Distillery of Inchgower’ in 1871 (to replace Tochineal Distillery) by Alexander Wilson and Co. Buckie Council purchased the concern in 1936 and ownership was transferred to Arthur Bell & Sons Ltd in 1938 and indeed to this very day the Bell’s logo is used in the advertising of Inchgower.

During the 1960s Arthur Bell and Sons included Inchgower Scotch whisky as a component in the popular Bells blend, the vast majority of whisky produced at the distillery, as much as 99%, is used as a blending component (Johnnie Walker and White Horse blends) with only around only 1% of the total production of the distillery being sold as a single malt whisky. Lucky for us there are some Independent bottling’s around, such as this fine one from Royal Mile Whiskies.

Colour: Bright deep gold with slow long and thick legs.

Nose: Sweet, lovely and elegant nose with crème brûlée and braaied banana with burnt/caramelising sugar. There are also notes of sweet xmas spiciness and fruit cake mix as well as a custard sweetness with attractive citrus on the edges (mostly orange marmalade, for me).

Palate: Nice sweet winter spiciness on entry (tip of tongue mostly) that generates a nice warmth. The hot spiciness stays on the palate but with time some caramel, subdued citrus (oranges) and subtle dark chocolate nuances emerge. Palate has a lovely clean and full mouthfeel that coats the tongue.

Finish: A long finish that is winter spicy sweet with a nice dryness at the end.

Overall: My first introduction to an Inchgower whisky and what a cracker it is! I suspect that I will be sniffing out a few more independent bottling’s from this distillery for future enjoyment.

My Score: 88

Glenlivet 1988/2014 15yo – Signatory exclusively for WhiskyBrother

My next review is a special one. Firstly it is a review of whisky that is a culmination of a dream for a friend of mine, Marc Pendlebury of WhiskyBrother fame. And secondly it is the first whisky that I am officially scoring since I decided to publically add my score to a review. It is a 15yo Glenlivet, distilled on the 28th of August 1998 and bottled on the 24th of March 2014 at cask strength (54.8% ABV) by Signatory; exclusively for WhiskyBrother (each beautiful bottle is individually numbered).

WhiskyBrother_Signatory_Glenlivet_15yo_The Smoky DramWhisky: Glenlivet 15yo 1998/2014, 54.8% ABV (Cost – R1300)

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 15 years


The cask chosen ( #128811) was a 500 litre butt, which previously contained Oloroso sherry, yielded 413 bottles and was personally selected by Marc on behalf of the store. Early in 2014 Marc travelled to Scotland to fulfil his dream of selecting a whisky directly for the cask to be bottled for WhiskyBrother. Out of the several whiskies that were tasted at the independent bottler Signatory, three samples were brought back to South Africa for the final selection. “The winning cask was chosen solely on the whisky we thought was best, we didn’t concern ourselves with which distillery it came from or how old it was,” explained Marc.

For years WhiskyBrother was just a blog started by Marc, until 2 years ago when he decide to take the plunge and extended his passion for all things whisky to open a boutique whisky store. WhiskyBrother, situated in Hyde Park Corner shopping centre in Johannesburg, stocks whiskies from around the world, as well as related paraphernalia such as whisky glassware, books and magazines. Holding more than 300 different whiskies, with new stock coming and going on a monthly basis, it is a little slice of whisky heaven for local whiskyphiles. Its aim is to be a focal point in the South African whisky community: a place to taste and explore all things whisky, no matter the knowledge or experience of the drinker.

Marc Pendlebury_WhiskyBrother_The Smoky Dram

So if you are ever in the area pop into the store, taste a dram or two and pick up for yourself a bottle of the store’s own bottling – it will be well worth it!

Colour: Deep and rich auburn to mahogany with many slow and long legs.

Nose: Rich, clean and fresh with dried fruits (mostly prunes and sultana’s), Christmas cake and warm winter spices (cinnamon and ginger). There is also some wood spice, brandied raisins, chocolate and stewed fruit (cinnamoned apples and prunes) to be found. Water brings out apricot marmalade on slightly burnt toast.

Palate: Oily and mouth coating with a hot entry onto the mouth. Warm with hot yet sweet spiciness (cinnamon and ginger), dark chocolate, Christmas cake, dried fruits and a lovely jamyness. Some mocha is also to be found floating around. Water softens the heat but not too much and some more wood spice comes to the fore.

Finish: Fairly long and warming with a lingering hot and sweet spicy tingle (pepper and cinnamon/ginger mix) leading to some apricot marmalade and dark chocolate at the end.

Overall: an excellent choice Marc, it is an incredibly moreish whisky that is powerful and intense without being too overpowering. Looking forward to the next bottling for the store!

My Score: 88

Glenglassaugh 25yo – Whisky Academy

My very belated next review is not only my 50th whisky review (woo hoo!), but this whisky was also my 100th whisky tasted. My blind sample was kindly provided by WhiskyBrother Marc and the only clue I was given was the ABV. Then via the wonders of modern technology (Twitter), I conversed with Marc as to what I thought the whisky was once I had tasted it.

Glenglassaugh 25yo_Smoky Dram

Whisky: Glenglassaugh 25yo, 45.3% ABV

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 25 years

Glenglassaugh Distillery was founded by Col. James Moir in 1875. After being completely re-built in 1960, the distillery continued to produce whisky until November 1986 when it was mothballed. The distillery sat silent for over 20 years until it was purchased by a group of investors and started production again in December 2008. In 2013, the BenRiach Distillery Company took over Glenglassaugh distillery.

 This whisky was specially selected by Jonathan Miles for the Whisky Academy to be their first bottling, as a fine example of what Glenglassaugh and Scotland has to offer after 25 years of aging. It was distilled in 1986 and bottled in 2001. With only 216 bottles being produced it will remain a rarity as there are no more 1986 casks (they closed in November 1986).

Colour: Tawny to auburn with lovely long and thick legs.

Nose: Sweet pecan nut slice with feint hints of citrus fruits and some winter spices. A sprinkling of Christmas cake mix, a dash of florallyness and a dollop of cooked caramel and toffee is also to be found. A nice bit of chocolate rounds out the nose quite nicely.

Palate: Starts off with a sweet and woody spiciness that coats your whole tongue, followed by a raisin and nut mix. There is also some bitter dark chocolate with citrus fruit zest at end and back of one’s mouth. The mouth feel is a warm and smooth one.

Finish: Lovely, warm and lingering with sweet spicy bite of cloves and cinnamon that tingles one’s tongue and lips.

Overall: My first introduction to Glenglassaugh and what an exceptional introduction it was. This is a dram that has complexity and smoothness to it. If you can try this one you really should!

My Score: 88

Longmorn 18yo

Next up is a bit of a rare 18yo, well rare as an OB (original bottling) at least. As my previous review was of the Chivas Regal 18yo, I have decided to review one of the single malts that goes into the Chivas Regal 18yo blend, namely the Longmorn 18yo. I was fortunate to taste this whisky at a Chivas Regal tasting held at the WhiskyBrother shop.

Longmorn_18yo_Chivas Brothers_The Smoky DramWhiskey: Longmorn 18yo, 40% ABV

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 18 years


Longmorn was founded in 1893 by John Duff, who had founded the Glenlossie distillery two decades earlier, and production began around December 1894. The Longmorn and the BenRiach distilleries (which he built next to Longmorn) were both were affected by the collapse of wholesale buyers Pattison, Elder and Co. in 1898. The Longmorn Distilleries Company Ltd. then passed through a variety of ownerships. In 2001 Chivas Brothers was acquired by the French Pernod Ricard Group.

John Duff also has an interesting South African connection. After about a decade at Glenlossie John and his family emigrated to South Africa with plans to start a new distillery in the then Transvaal. John invested large sums of money in what would most likely of been the first malt whisky distillery on the African continent, but his plans were obstructed by the then South African president Paul Kruger as he had an aversion against anything British.

Colour: Rich deep gold colour with very many slow thick legs.

Nose: Interesting start of soap and leather before one gets into vanilla with some creamy toffee notes.   Once past the sweet notes you are met with olives (olive oil), some fresh sweet grass/hay and yellow flowers. A lovely layered, clean and fragrant nose that has great depth, complexity and richness to it.

Palate: White pepper and clove spiciness (front of tongue) starts you off on this extremely rich and intricate palate. Green fields, vegetal earthiness and green olives introduce themselves as the creamy butteryness with some vanilla joins the party. Appealing damp woody smokiness is also to be found. A remarkable palate with a thick mouth coating oiliness to it.

Finish: Very long, smooth and warming with flavour and spiciness all the way to end.

Overall: A stimulatingly intricate dram that has a splendid balance to it. This is a dram that you are meant to spend time on to full appreciate what is happening is the glass.

My Score: 83

Chivas Regal 18yo Gold Signature

Time to get back to my reviews of 18 year old whisky and this time it is of a blended scotch whisky that has an age statement. Here are my views on the Chivas Regal 18yo (aka Gold Signature). Chivas Regal’s home is Strathisla Distillery at Keith, Moray in Speyside, Scotland. Strathisla is the oldest working Highland distillery which was founded in 1786.

Chivas Regal_18yo_The Smoky DramWhiskey: Chivas Regal 18yo Gold Signature, 43% ABV (Cost around R900)

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Blended Scotch Whisky

Age: 18 years

Chivas Regal is a blended Scotch whisky that is produced by Chivas Brothers. Chivas Brothers can trace their roots back to the opening of a grocery store at 13 King St, Aberdeen in 1801. This grocery store sold luxury foodstuffs such as coffee, exotic spices, French brandies and Caribbean rums to a wealthy clientele. In 1842, Chivas Brothers was retained to supply provisions to the royal family at Balmoral Castle upon Queen Victoria’s first visit to Scotland.

The Chivas 18 year old is a blend that includes over 20 single malts from around Scotland, all who have been whiskies that were matured for at least 18 years, including the Strathisla Single Malt. Apparently there are 85 flavour notes in the Chivas Regal 18 year old.

Colour: Bright dark burnished gold to amber with many very thick legs.

Nose: Banana, dried fruits (xmas cake) and slight dark chocolate. Wonderfully rich with a butteryness to it that is accentuated with some toffee, caramel and honeyed sweetness, This is followed by a slight sweet smokiness and touch of ginger spiciness. Quite a balanced and pleasing nose.

Palate: A lovely smooth and full mouth feel greets you. There is spiciness and a sweet smokiness to it, with some richness and dried fruits. Mellow and warm drinking, with dark chocolate and a tongue tingling spiciness (sweet ginger) rounding out the palate. I do find some more individual flavour and depth to it.

Finish: Medium to long. Warm, dried fruits and spicy flavours that stay around.

Overall: I find the Chivas Regal 18yo a well-balanced and very easy drinking whisky, an almost too easy drinking whisky.

My Score: 82

Glenfarclas 12yo

From Ireland we travel back to Scotland for my thoughts on the Glenfarclas 12yo. The single malt whiskies of Glenfarclas are matured almost solely in sherry butts. Interesting to note is that the Glenfarclas 12yo was originally bottled for export and travel retail markets.

Glenfarclas_12yo_The Smoky DramWhiskey: Glenfarclas 12yo, 43% ABV (Cost around R500)

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 12 years

Glenfarclas, meaning Glen of the Green Grassland, was founded by Robert Hay in 1836 where on the original site there is some evidence that there was a distillery on the site over a century prior since 1797.

The single malt whiskies of Glenfarclas are aged in the considerable onsite warehousing facilities; the 28 warehouses hold 52,000 casks with stock from every year from 1952 to the current year. The whisky distillery has an extensive range of single malt whiskies, particularly so after the 2007 release of the Family Casks range with a bottling from every vintage between 1952 and 1994.

Colour: Deep amber gold with very many thick, slow and long legs.

Nose: Polished wood (pine wood polish), citrus fruits, raisins and dried fruits. There are hints of smoky creaminess with some medicinal notes, caramel (crème caramels) sweetness and a touch of spiciness. A rather delicate, smooth and light nose.

Palate: Medium to full bodied with a lovely sweet, spicy and smoky character. Medicinal, but not Laphroaig like, almost earthy. Has a sharp bite upfront but mellow out with melon, sherry notes and a whisper of smokiness.

Finish: Long, spicy and warm with a sweet smokiness at end.

Overall: A great introduction to the Glenfarclas range. I find the 12yo to be a rather well balanced and put together whisky. Quite a gentle and elegant whisky.

My Score: 81

GlenDronach Platinum 16 YO

From the same owners of my previous review, BenRiach, my next review is of the GlenDronach Platinum 16 year old. The whisky selected for this special bottling, which is exclusively bottled for the South African market, has been matured for a minimum of 16 years in the finest Oloroso sherry casks.

GlenDronach_Platinum_16yo_The Smoky Dram

Whisky: GlenDronach Platinum 16 YO, 48% ABV (Cost around R950) 

Region: used to be classified as a Speyside (Jackson) but officially a Highlands (SWR 2009), Scotland [from WhiskyFun]

Style: Single Malt

Age: 16 Years

In 1826 James Allardice founded the distillery and produced his ‘Guid GlenDronach’ single malt. In 2004 three families, two being South African, purchased BenRiach. Then the same families (The BenRiach Distillery Company) bought the GlenDronach distillery in 2008. The GlenDronach Distillery has been creating richly sherried single malts for nearly 200 years.

As was the case in 1826, The GlenDronach Distillery patiently matures all its single malt whisky in superior quality sherry casks. Over the years of extended maturation, these carefully seasoned casks help create the unique richly sherried style that GlenDronach is famous for. So the whiskies have a deep amber to rich mahogany colour, while having the typical sherried styled characteristics; rich dried fruits, Christmas cake mix, stewed fruits and lovely warm spiciness.

Colour: Tawny to mahogany with many thick legs.

Nose: Soft, spicy and rich with lovely spicy stewed fruits and cinnamoned apples. With time in the glass one gets sweetness as well as dates (date loaf bread), prunes, sultanas and dark chocolate. Soft coffee notes in background together with some citrus zest.

Palate: Smooth and spicy (tip and side of tongue) while also being dry and astringent, but not overly so. Divine dark coffee chocolate on edge of palate with a lovely ginger and cinnamon (fire ball sweets) bite combined with some coffee and smoke. More of the expected rich stewed and dried fruits with that lovely sweetness towards the end.

Finish: Very rich and drying finish, combined with the ‘warm heart’, makes it long and satisfying.

Overall: A beauty of a sherried whisky that could be enjoyed at any time, however it seems to be perfectly made for enjoyment around a roaring fire on a cold winter’s night while one contemplates all of life’s little mysteries.

My Score: 86

SMWS 76.50 Mortlach 10yo

Now for something a little different for my next review of a 10 year old. The whisky is again from the Speyside region, but it is not a distillery bottling. This time it’s from an independent bottler – The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and their bottling of Mortlach 10yo, bottling/cask number 76.50.

SMWS_10_Mortlach_The Smoky Dram 
Whisky: SMWS 76.50 Mortlach 10yo, 59.8% ABV

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 10 years

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, founded in Edinburgh in 1983, is a membership organisation which bottles and sells single cask, single malt whisky. SMWS purchases individual casks from 129 malt whisky distilleries globally, bottles them and then retails directly to their members.  They also run private members’ rooms in South Africa (SA’s SMWS website) and other international locations. An odd thing about a Society bottling is that they don’t mention the distillery – or at least not in so many words. A number rather than a name denotes each distillery.


Mortlach distillery is found in Dufftown, Scotland with 3 wash stills and 3 spirit stills. Their current capacity is around 2,910,000 litres. Founded in 1823, the creation date is not known for sure, but the licence has been officially delivered in 1823. Amongst the nine distilleries around Dufftown, Mortlach is the oldest one. The second is Glenfiddich, founded by William Grant who was production manager at Mortlach. The distillery is currently owned by Diageo. The whisky is a key component in several Johnnie Walker bottling’s.

Colour: Rich gold to amber.

Nose: An attractive sweet, light and fragrant nose that is beautifully complex. Sweet aromas of vanilla, peppermint crisp chocolate, and fruit cake mix with slight savouriness and smokiness about it like a smoky tea.

Palate: A fairly sharp start (spicy ginger burn on tip of tongue) that drops off very quickly to a sweet, smoky, savoury, and slight spicy palate that coats your mouth. It also has notes of citrus fruits, honey and ginger. The smoke on this is light, not a slap you in the face kind of smoke, making it a very approachable palate.

Body: Medium bodied with lots of thin to medium legs.

Finish: A pleasing lingering dry and warm finish that is sweet and spicy (ginger).

Overall: This is a very approachable and aromatic whisky that has a delightful mouth feel as well as being flavoursome. I would recommend it to anyone who is unsure or wary of trying a whisky from an independent bottler to see what it is all about.

My Score: 87

Aberlour 10yo

Back to my review of 10 year olds and back to Scotland. This time the review is from the prolific Speyside area with a single malt from Aberlour.

Aberlour_10_The Smoky DramWhisky: Aberlour 10yo, 43% ABV (Cost around R440)

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 10 years

Aberlour is situated at the junction of the Rivers Lour and Spey. James Fleming founded the Aberlour Distillery in 1879 and in 1898 a fire destroyed several of the distillery buildings and most of the whisky stocks.

Most Aberlour single malts are double cask matured. The whisky is matured separately in a mix of rare, expensive and specially selected ex-sherry butts and ex-bourbon casks to ensure a perfect balance of flavours. The other ingredient is the atmosphere at Aberlour. The soft, Scottish air permeates the casks and works on the whisky to create its smooth, perfectly rounded taste. But before the air there is water, and at Aberlour they use  the crystal-clear spring water that cascades down the slopes of Ben Rinnes, and makes its way from there along the Lour Valley to the distillery.

Quite fitting then as  ‘Aberlour’ is a gaelic word meaning ‘mouth of the chattering burn [stream]’.

Colour: A lovely warm deep gold.

Nose: Dried fruits (mostly pears, apples and apricot), stewed fruits, Wilson’s mint toffee. A sweet, rich, Christmas cake with some nuttiness around.

Palate: Very similar to the nose. Christmas spices (nutmeg and cinnamon), nuttiness, sherried fruitcake with a slight spicy bite on the tip of your tongue. Superbly smooth and balanced.

Body: Full bodied with many medium legs.

Finish: Warm and drying with a long soft and gentle lingering sweet spiciness (nutmeg and white pepper).  

Overall: This is a whisky that is refined and very approachable as well as being wonderfully balanced. It is a delightful and rich dram with that has a sweet spicy profile throughout. One that readily reminds me of those family visits over Christmas time.

My Score: 82